Friday, November 18, 2011

Double your displeasure with 'Jack and Jill'

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Adam Sandler has released his biggest turkey yet. “Jack and Jill,” a supposed family comedy in which Sandler gets to play his own twin sister, may not be his worst movie, but it is easily his laziest.

Sandler in drag has been funny before. One of the most popular sketches he did on “Saturday Night Live” was the Gap girls with David Spade and Chris Farley. But what is funny for five minutes isn’t necessarily funny for 90.

Guys dressed as women can be funny, but the idea isn’t intrinsically funny unto itself. Sure, the visual is good for a quick laugh at first, but after that you need to start writing some actual jokes. Movies like “Some Like It Hot,” “Tootsie” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” knew this and created funny and interesting characters and plots.

In all the above examples you also have characters that are guys who decide to dress up as a woman and so there’s the comic tension of how long the charade will last. With “Jack and Jill,” we’re supposed to accept Jill is an actual woman and that’s not believable on any plane of existence.

This could be excusable if the movie was actually funny. There are admittedly some laughs but, few to none of them come from the Jill character. There’s a reoccurring sight gag in which Sandler’s son tapes things to his body that is amusing and an extended appearance by Al Pacino that is, well, we’ll get to that later.

Any time Jill comes on screen with her shrill voice and obnoxious, loud and disgusting behavior you just want her to go away. If fart jokes are your thing, Jill is your gal. Somehow, despite having no redeemable qualities, we’re supposed to believe that Jack’s entire family falls in love with her.

Jill apparently has no job because she just keeps extending her Thanksgiving visit through to the new year. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her because she’s lonely since the passing of her mother who, other than her pet bird, was her only friend. She isn’t a character, but a very ugly caricature. Jack isn’t any better as Sandler plays his latest in a line of rich jerks.

The rich jerk character first appeared in “Funny People,” but that was a film in which Sandler did some real acting. Believe it or not, Sandler is better than movies like “Jack and Jill.” Sandler is just following the money. Anytime he’s tried something more serious like “Punch Drunk Love” or “Reign Over Me,” the films, despite being quite good, are box office duds. His lazy comedies gross $100 million.

In “Grown Ups,” “Just Go With It” and now “Jack and Jill,” he has played wealthy men who are bitter and self-absorbed and then in the final third of the films learn the error of their ways and become better men.

This has been a similar arc to many of Sandler’s films, but in his films from the 1990s such as “Happy Gilmore” there seemed to be some winking at the audience or some genuine sweetness as in “Big Daddy.” In his latter films there’s a sourness. A father now in real life, it's as if he feels obligated to put heartwarming messages in his films even if they feel disingenuous.

“Jack and Jill” is at least partially saved by Pacino. Pacino, playing himself, falls instantly in love with Jill at a basketball game. This leads to some strange scenes in the final third that are so off-the-wall that they actually work. Pacino seems oddly committed to playing himself.

The scenes with Pacino, particularly one in which he takes a call from Jack in the middle of a live stage production are indeed funny, but they feel like they are coming from an entirely different movie.

The Pacino scenes are worth seeing, but it is not worth sitting through all the fart jokes and lame prat falls. So, here’s the recommendation: Walk in an hour late or better yet, save your money and wait for it show up on YouTube or Netflix or in Red Box.

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